Can’t buy me love: Twitter adding services and PR ethics

It seems like every time I get on Twitter, I am bombarded with messages from sketchy “tweeps” inviting me to “gain 5,000 followers immediately!” by signing up for their services. I usually brush them off as spam, assuming such a service will give me some sort of horrible virus that will cause me weeks of headaches and a call or two to Geek Rescue.

Besides, even if the companies aren’t truly spam, I thought, isn’t buying followers still unethical? Social media is about engaging with real people, forming mutually beneficial relationships, and letting your connections grow organically through valuable conversation.

A few weeks ago, a client asked me to sign him up for one of these services.

His goal was not to immediately grow real, valuable followers, but to:
A) Appear more established at the first glance of a new potential follower – making them more likely to follow him, thus gaining more real, valuable followers, and

B) Increase the limit of friends Twitter allowed him to have so that he could add more real, valuable friends without being penalized – and hopefully, many of them would follow him back as well.

These seemed like reasonable expectations to me, so, still slightly apprehensive, I agreed. The client and I both felt that, at the very least, it would be a good learning opportunity.

After some research, I found there are basically two ways that these services work:

1. Mass following services (such as follow a large number of users and let them follow your profile back. After a few days, they go back and automatically unfollow the people who have not followed you back. It has many bells and whistles but I’m fairly certain that Twitter penalizes users of these services.

2. Buying services (such as that seem to have access to profiles of people who have opted into some sort of program. The cost is much higher per follower, but, supposedly, there are no “bots” involved. Some of

these services claim to bring in quality leads – users who have said they are interested in particular topics (so, hypothetically, if you’re a sales coach, and someone says they are interested in sales or business, you’re more likely to get that person.)

I chose a service like option number two and I have to say – although they turned out not to be “quality leads,” and some of their profiles are a little sketchy, (They might have a male Twitter name like @ChiTownDave and a profile that says “My name is Anna, I’m a nanny in the Dallas/FTW area!”) the client’s goals have been met.

What do you think? Is buying followers unethical PR practice, or a smart step toward reaching out to real, quality connections?


The Paradox of Organic Selling

In business, we are often taught to sell, sell, sell! Promote your product, push your sale until that dollar goes from their wallet to your bank account. While we agree that your eye must always be on the bottom line, this form of selling is not always the best method. Consider social media, events, and casual meetings as organic selling opportunities:

Imagine that you are at a neighborhood block party. Everyone has brought something to contribute to the get together, such as music, a casserole, a lemonade stand or a jump castle for the kiddos. Everyone is milling around, chatting about this or that – maybe the local elementary school’s soccer game yesterday, maybe the construction that’s been going on near the highway, or maybe the newest music video from the pop music icon of the moment.

As they load up their plates with barbecue, two neighbors, Kevin and Pete, discuss the roof damage to their homes during the last storm. This leads to a conversation about how Pete wants to switch his home insurance, and Pete learns that Kevin sells insurance for a living. Kevin thoughtfully gives Pete some tips on buying insurance, but does not try to make a sale. Afterall, at a social event like this, that would be inappropriate. However, he gives Pete his card just in case he needs any help, and they move on to talk about their favorite teams in the Big 12.

Two weeks later, Pete gives Kevin a call to make the switch. Although he does not know much about insurance, Pete feels that he knows Kevin and has a positive, trusting relationship with him already. He views Kevin as an expert on insurance and, possibly more importantly, as a man similar to himself.

Now, while this kind of interaction is fairly common, would you expect it to happen at every block party? Probably not. The point of a block party is not to make a sale – although it’s easy to see that it can happen organically.

Maybe at the next Main Street event, Pete will recommend Kevin to another friend seeking insurance, or to his boss, who is not sure whether he should get renter’s insurance for the new office space.

Word of mouth is the most powerful tool in marketing, and you can’t force it. It must be earned. It must be sincere. It must be organic.

So what can you do? You can reconsider your communication strategies.

1. Find your personality. People don’t do business with companies; they do business with other people.  Don’t be afraid to show that your business has a face and a voice.

2. Focus on relationship-building in conjunction with (or possibly in place of) traditional advertising.

3. Utilize social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, WordPress, and Google+ to cultivate relationships with people who will be ambassadors of your brand. These platforms are a virtual block party, where your neighbors can be from any number of locations. *Like a block party, the goal of social media is not to sell; it is to connect. Our hope is that these connections will lead to sales organically.*

Do you employ these strategies already? What other strategies have worked for you in generating word-of-mouth advertising?

Allison Broyles is the social media specialist at Consumer Pulse Marketing. She graduated from Oklahoma State University with a degree in public relations.
Follow Allison on Twitter at @ABroyles.
This post was originally created for Consumer Pulse Marketing.

You Only Get What You GIVE

“I suspect that many corporations have begun to understand that they have an important role to play in the lives of their communities, and that allocating funds to support local groups helps them discharge that function and also burnish their image.” — David Rockefeller

During the holidays, we are constantly reminded of nonprofit organizations in our communities that need assistance. On a nationwide and global scale, we see big companies such as Pepsi giving good to causes.

Corporate giving is an old idea, but an important one.  Most of us will agree that it is “good” to be charitable, to donate, to do something philanthropic. However, many small businesses fall into the narrow mindset of thinking of giving as parting with their hard earned money for no ROI.

It is important when thinking about corporate giving to remember your end objectives. You may not see a spike in sales, but you could be creating an opportunity to:

  • Get people talking about your company
  • Cultivate prospects and nurture major client relationships
  • Talk about a new product or service

When you’ve decided that corporate giving is right for your business, here are the next steps:

1. Pick a cause you care about. What are your company values? What are your personal values? Pick something about which you can be passionate.

2. Pick something your target market cares about. Get them involved. Working together builds your relationship and makes them feel confident that your company shares their values.

3. Stick with it. Just writing a check is bland and expected. Once you have an organization that aligns with your values and mission and the values of your consumers, be dedicated to that group. Get creative. Run campaigns. Partner with your nonprofit on something. Give repeatedly. Nourish the relationship you have created with that group and let them and the public know you are serious about getting involved.

4. Integrate.  By combining your charitable donations with things like events, corporate sponsorships, employee volunteerism, marketing, advertising, and public relations dollars, your business will get a much bigger bang for its buck.

There are lots of fun, effective, and creative ways small businesses can give back. Helping a cause your customers and employees care about -– and one that is also relevant to your business -– can reap tangible and intangible benefits for your public image, your shareholders, and your community (via

This post was originally created for Consumer Pulse Marketing.

Putting the “face” back in Facebook

(You can also access this post on the  Consumer Pulse Marketing blog.)

Have you seen that Toyota Venza commerical – you know – the one where the girl is worried about her parents’ social lives because of their lack of Facebook friends, when in reality they are out living life to the fullest?

As funny as it is, Toyota is pointing out a very common problem with social media.

Social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter are about sharing information and creating or maintaining relationships. In order to use a platform to it’s potential, you must remember that real, face-to-face interaction is key to developing those relationships.

The same is true for businesses. It doesn’t matter if you have a million followers if they are never going to come to your store – but if you connect with the right target audience, get to know who they are, where they are and what they value, and continue to develop your relationship with them, they are likely to seek you out when they need what you have to offer.

I encourage you to utilize your accounts in a way where you are getting as much as you can out of them. How can you do this?

1. Get involved. You know those pesky Facebook Events that are probably dominating your page? Go through them and ask yourself if maybe this event could produce some valuable connections for you, or help you reconnect with key people – because you are your brand.

2. Don’t sell, but be a friend and resource.  Many businesses join social media networks with no real plan, and simply use their accounts as a platform for promoting their goods or themselves. This is not social media. This is advertising. Would you walk into a picnic and start peddling your merchandise or bragging to your neighbors? And if you did, would they want to be your friend?

3. Help out. Would you like to get more involved with a group or partner with another organization? See what their needs are, and if there is anything you can do to help. Share their blog posts. Retweet their messages. Donate to their causes. Chances are, they will return the favor.

4. Be approachable. Make it easy for people  to reach you. Include your email, blog, website, Twitter name and Facebook profile on all your sites. Respond to those who reach out to you. In today’s world of technology, a living, breathing, interacting connection is a rare (and much appreciated) thing.

Social media is about building relationships – not staring at a computer screen or messing around on your smartphone all day – but getting in the loop and staying there. Going out and taking part in your community.

Is social media going to get you there all on its own? Probably not. But when utilized correctly, it can certainly help.

Generation Telephonophobic?

“Allison,” my supervisor said, “can you please call this list of organizations, and see if they’d like to be involved in our event? See if you can schedule a time for us to meet with them next week.”

“Of course!” I’d reply. But I dreaded the terrifying task. I would go over and over in my mind what I might say to these unsuspecting strangers. What if I forgot what company they were with, or why I was calling? What if they were rude? My young hands shaking, I’d reach for the receiver and dial, holding my breath, staring at a script I’d made for myself for just about any scenario. And then – I’d get a voicemail. Oh no! I had not prepared for this! What should I say? What information should I give? What if the machine cuts me off? Beeeeeep. Show time. 

These mini panic attacks over simple phone calls were common to me when I first began my internships, despite my college experience as a telephone interviewer. And so, it’s bittersweet for me now to see my interns, who may have even less experience, try to mask their terror when I ask them to make calls.

Is it just me, or does no one know how to use a telephone anymore? Sure, we can use a cell phone to text, email, play games, find information, and so on – but can we still use it to actually call someone? Is my generation so used to zapping information back and forth at the speed of satellite that we are unable have real conversations?

In this information age I am finding myself at a loss. As a PR professional, I pride myself on my ability to communicate both efficiently and politely; however, I am finding myself questioning those skills.

Holding telephone conversations is becoming a lost art, and it is  a skill that young professionals must develop in order to be in the communications business. Check out these phone strategy tips, courtesy of Regina M. Robo. 

Phone strategy

  • Treat the call as if it were a meeting – have a purpose, and an agenda.
  • Decide what you’ll do if someone answers other than the person you’re calling. Would you prefer to leave a message, go to voice mail, or call back later?
  • If you’re on a scheduled call, be at your desk at the appointed time.
  • Learn the names of the people who answer the phones at the numbers you call most frequently. Speak pleasantly to them, and if you talk to them very frequently, send them a card or gift on their birthday or over the holidays.

What do you think? Do you know anyone who is afraid of the phone? What  bad or awkward habits have you experienced during phone conversations? What advice do you have for young communicators?

Foursquare for squares?

You may have read my post several months back about by love for Foursquare  – specifically, its ability to let businesses reward loyal customers and to make it easy for people to suggest certain businesses to their friends.

For a while, I was an avid foursquare user – even after Facebook started its Places app in response to the quickly-growing tool.  After all, I was more interested in Foursquare as it pertained to businesses rather than just checking in somewhere so my friends could see.

However, after a recent trip to Cherry Berry on Brookside, I saw this sign located by the register [image to the right] and for me, Foursquare went up in smoke – and this article from PC World seems to agree.

Who cares about badges or the other gimmicky things Foursquare does for you? The real value is the ability to connect a brand or business to its customers, and it’s only a matter of time until Facebook organizes this system with it’s Places app and makes it easy for businesses to track (and reward) those who check in to their location.)

As a user, I am already comfortable with Facebook and use it for multiple purposes on-the-go, so checking in using Places is far easier than pulling up a whole new program.

Facebook, is there anything you won’t do?

And my lovely blog readers – which do you prefer? Do you see much value in Foursquare over Facebook Places? Please, let me know what you think!



There’s no such thing as bad media…or is there?

Charlie Sheen.

How often have you thought about him in the last month? I’m willing to bet (unless you were a crazy obsessed fan before he went off the deep end) that the answer surpasses the number of times you’ve thought about him in the past year. Or two years. Or more.

You may be thinking to yourself “Man, this guy is crazy” or “He is on drugs!” but the point is, you are thinking about him. Which, similar to Joaquin Phoenix‘s staged 2009 breakdown,  sets him up for a comeback.

I’m not saying he’s not crazy. But think of all the ways he’s already benefited from his craziness. Sure, he lost his show, but look what he gained:

Sheen now has more than two million Twitter followers. Hashtags taken from his quotes such as #TigerBlood, #winning are trending on Twitter, and it seems as if every 10 minutes he’s doing another TV interview.

I’m not saying the entire thing was planned. I’m just saying, if he was already in a bad place with his show’s producers and with the media and with his family, why not capitalize on it? Why not use his craziness to set him up for a giant comeback?

It will be interesting to see what happens next.

So, we are left with these questions: Is he faking the craziness? Does he have a strategy? What do YOU think?